The Massurrealism Of James Seehafer


I had the good fortune recently to speak with James Seehafer, the founder of the artistic school known as massurrealism.  A fellow New Englander, Seehafer studied at Parsons School Of Design.  He then began exhibiting his paintings in the northeast, including Boston and New York City (specifically in the Lower East Side).  His work was received favorably in New York, and his paintings were displayed alongside the works of Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.  In 2005 he relocated to Berlin, Germany to continue working in photography and paint.  As James began to use more mass media elements in his work–including photography, video, and advertising–he coined the term massurrealism in the early 1990s.  The term was a necessary and accurate one, since no existing coinage adequately described the type of art he was producing.   Continue reading

A Tale Of Grapes And Greed


The Sufi order called Qadiri was founded by Abdul Qadir Gilani Al Amoli (1077–1166).  He was born at Nif, which lies to the south of the Caspian Sea.  The Qadiriyya Order is a large one and has many adherents in the Islamic world.

There is a teaching story that I came across recently that reminded me of some of the stories told by the Stoics.  It stands for the idea that the right thing must be done for the right reason; and that actions without pure motives remain worthless.

I have adapted this story from Indries Shah’s The Way of the Sufi.

A peasant once planted come vines out of a desire to create something beautiful and produce something of worth.  But the vines he planted were the type of vine that only bore fruit after many years.

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How To Read A Book


I often get questions on book recommendations.  People will ask me, “What book do you recommend for learning about XYZ historical event?”

Or they will say, “What book do you recommend for learning about XYZ philosophy?”

Or whatever.

And this is fine.  I always am happy to give my opinion.  I like to discuss, to critique, and to analyze, because this is how the forward movement of knowledge works.

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Channeling Your Pain To Help Yourself And Others


The July 2015 issue of Outside magazine has an article about an Oregon entrepreneur named Chad Brown. I liked the article and thought other readers here might find it useful and instructive. It’s about pain, recovery, and channeling your despair into productive work.

Brown had joined the Navy when he was 20 years old, and had been assigned to duty in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. Those who know their recent history will know instantly what that means. His official job description was that of a “combat stevedore”; his job was to provide security and logistics for equipment that was offloaded from the docks and trucked to various points around the city.

[To read the rest of the article, click here].

Delusion Is The Enemy Of Precision


I’m not a big Sherlock Holmes fan.  Some of the stories are amusing, but I never really warmed to the character.  (I do like Arthur Conan Doyle’s science fiction and suspense stories, but that’s a separate conversation).

Anyway, about Sherlock Holmes.  He used to have a saying that “Passion was the enemy of precision.”  And it can be, certainly.

But other things are enemies of precision, too.  One of them is more insidious than passion.  It is delusion.

What is delusion?

Delusion is the failure or inability to see the reality that is before our eyes.  Delusion is the blocking out of information that does not conform to our pre-existing beliefs.

Delusion is all to common.  It can be a killer.

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How I Dealt With Heat Exhaustion

If you’re going to be exercising during the daytime sun this summer, be mindful of staying hydrated.  It’s important.  Like, very important.  Learn from my experience.

I’ll share a story with you about that, if you want to hear it.

I was going through The Basic School (TBS) in 1990 in Quantico, Virginia.  It’s the Marine Corps’s six month school for newly commissioned officers.  You have to learn a lot of infantry tactics and skills, regardless of what your ultimate specialty will be.  One of those skills is land navigation (or land nav, as we called it).

On Marine bases all over the world, they have this color-coded flag system to (supposedly) show the danger of exercising in the heat.  A yellow flag meant to use caution.  A red flag meant to use a lot of caution.  And a black flag meant to watch out for your fucking ass.

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The Roman Preparation Of Salt Pork


My most recent articles here have focused on a different type of subject matter than that which I normally write about.  Change is refreshing.  In recent weeks, I’ve had a lot of enjoyment going through the primary Latin works on agriculture and farming:  these are Columella’s Res rustica, Cato’s De agricultura, and Varro’s De re rustica.

I had not imagined that I would like reading about this sort of thing, but it’s been a very eye-opening experience.  Organic farming is an interesting subject.  Judging by the responses to these articles, there are other who feel the same way.

Why?  For one thing, we have begun to appreciate just how important it is for our food and drink to come from good origins.  If we want to think and act in healthy ways, we must ensure that we are literally composed of good ingredients.

We moderns pump our meats with hormones and antibiotics, and drench our fruits and vegetables with chemicals.  Is this a net good?  There are trade-offs in life with everything, and the achievements of modern science should not be minimized.  The modern food distribution system, with its conveniences and modest prices, is something that our remote ancestors could only have dreamed of.

At the same time, it is a mistake to think that we have not paid a price for all this.  In Roman times and for many centuries afterwards, animal husbandry and the cultivation of produce was done “naturally” using human and animal labor.  The Romans did not have to try to be “organic” farmers; they just were.  Reading the food preparation recipes in the three authors named above (Columella, Cato, and Varro) in the original language made me imagine just how good foods must have tasted in those days.

Everything was raised and produced naturally.  We have paid a price for our modern food system.  On balance, it was probably worth it, but I know that I’m going to make more of an effort to cut out of my diet any foods that are too tainted with chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.

I will describe here Columella’s preparation of salt pork.  This preparation caught my eye, since salt pork plays a major role in an important dish that I grew up with:  New England cod and clam chowders.  Salt pork has many other uses, of course.  It can be found in a number of Spanish and Portuguese dishes, and figures in the cuisines of other nations as well.

We will now find out how the Romans prepared it.  My source here is Columella (XII.55).

Columella’s Preparation of Salt Pork

1.  Columella begins by warning us of the necessity of removing all moisture from the meat during the treatment process.  A good way to begin, then, is to prevent the pigs from drinking the day before they are to be slaughtered.  This rule applies to all animals, and especially to the pig.  (Omne pecus et praecipue suem pridie quam occidatur, potione prohiberi oportet, quo sit caro siccior).

2.  The pig should be dispatched quickly and humanely.  Then the carcass should be boned (bene exossato).  The boning (i.e., removing the bones) makes the flesh preserve better (magis durabilem salsuram facit).

3.  The flesh should then be thoroughly salted with rough, coarse salt that has been “toasted” or smoked (cocto sale).   The salt should be liberally stuffed into the cavities where there still may be bones remaining.

4.  The carcass (presumably cut in half here) should be stretched out on wooded planks.  Covering them with another board, place heavy weights on top of this.  This will act to press out any remaining blood and moisture from the flesh.  Let this sit for three days.


5.  After the third day, you should change the salt by rubbing off the old salt and rubbing on new handfuls of salt.  The goal is to replace the old salt with fresh salt, so that the pork continues the drying process.

6.  If the weather is mild and not wet, you can leave the carcass to cure in this way for nine days.  If the weather is wet or rainy, you should let it cure for about ten days.

7.  Take the pork to a fresh water source like a pond or river and wash out the salt as thoroughly as possible.

8.  The carcass should then be hung up in a larder (in carnario), where it can receive a small amount of smoke.  Besides adding flavor, the smoke will also serve to dry up any remaining moisture (In carnario suspendi, quo modicus fumus perveniat qui, siquid humoris adhuc continetur, siccare eum possit).

9.  Columella advises us to carry out the salting process at a time when “the moon is waning” (luna descrescente), especially during the middle of winter, especially February.  We note this advice with an amused smile, and can safely say that the phases of the moon have no relation to one’s success in salting pork.


Read More:  Ancient Methods Of Preserving Olives